Wisconsin alcohol consumption jumps during pandemic

By: - September 9, 2021 4:16 pm
Five glasses partially drank of beer

“Beer” by Jonathan Harford via Flickr CC BY-NC 2.0

Wisconsin, one of the heaviest drinking states in the country, consumed even more alcohol than normal during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a report released this week. 

State tax revenues on beer, wine, cider and liquor jumped by nearly 17% during the 2021 fiscal year, which ended June 30, according to a report from the Wisconsin Policy Forum. The increase represents the largest jump in alcohol tax revenue since 1972 when the wine tax rate increased and the drinking age was lowered to 18. 

By far, Wisconsinites drank more liquor last year. Tax revenue from liquor sales jumped 18% while cider revenues increased 16% and revenues from beer and wine increased about 10% each. Generally, revenue from taxes on alcohol in Wisconsin only increases about 2% every year. 

With bars and restaurants closed or operating at partial capacity for part of 2020 and many people avoiding social gatherings, the report suggests people turned to drinking at home during the stressful year.

“Since March 2020, Wisconsin and every other state has dealt with the consequences of the pandemic, including restrictions on gatherings and social interaction,” the report states. “For individuals, this period also may have generated increased stress about personal health and the health of loved ones, lost or reduced employment, fewer work or leisure activities, and challenges with school and child care. During such a period, it is perhaps unsurprising that alcohol sales increased in Wisconsin.”

Long one of the state’s most vexing health challenges, the report warns that this trend needs to be watched to protect people from drunk driving deaths and other alcohol related health concerns. 

“It also is clear that excessive alcohol use is a leading public health concern in Wisconsin,” the report states. “Surveys routinely show Wisconsinites engage in binge drinking more frequently than residents in most other states.”


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Henry Redman
Henry Redman

Henry Redman is a staff reporter for the Wisconsin Examiner who focuses on covering Wisconsin's towns and rural areas. He previously covered crime and courts at the Daily Jefferson County Union. A lifelong Midwesterner, he was born in Cleveland, Ohio and graduated from Loyola University Chicago with a degree in journalism in May 2019.